By ANNABELLE ADY
On Feb. 11, 1920, Idaho ratified the 19th amendment, granting women the right to legally vote, a big step toward equality. In “Seeking Suffrage: The Idaho Story,” University of Idaho historians Rebecca Scofield and Katherine Aiken will explore the complexities surrounding ratification of the amendment in Idaho. Scofield, an assistant professor of history, spoke with Inland 360 before the event.
What was the women’s suffrage movement?
Scofield: Broadly speaking, the women’s suffrage movement was the 70-year struggle by activists to gain women the right to vote in the United States.
What was it like to be a woman during this movement in Idaho?
Scofield: In Idaho, women gained the right to vote in 1896. At that time, the state’s population was rapidly growing, though vast distances separated the population centers. Native American women and Chinese women experienced a great deal of racial discrimination and violence. White women had limited access to education and, despite being able to vote in some school elections, were prohibited from participating in the political process.
Why do you think Idaho took longer than other states to ratify the 19th Amendment?
Scofield: Dr. Katherine Aiken and I argue that national debates helped pass suffrage in 1896, but also slowed the ratification of the 19th Amendment. While the free silver (movement*), helped draw away any controversy from the suffrage debate in the 1890s, the issue of states rights drove (Idaho Gov.) William Borah to resist ratification in 1919.
How did the 19th Amendment affect Idaho culturally?
Scofield: In comparison to other states, Idaho’s suffrage campaign was short and mild-mannered. In many ways, Idaho women got lucky that women’s suffrage was added to the ballot and then made use of that luck.
What are future events planned in this series?
Scofield: The “Seeking Suffrage” series will conclude at 7 p.m. April 28 at the Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre with a panel of women elected to public office in Idaho.
* The “Free Silver” movement advocated for an unlimited silver coinage in hopes that increasing the supply of money would create a more fair economy. The movement began after Congress omitted the silver dollar from the list of authorized coins in 1873. This was called the “Crime of ’73.” Supporters of the movement included western silver mine owners, debtors who thought it would help them pay off their debts and farmers who thought it could increase crop prices. “Free silver” became a cry for economic justice.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: “Seeking Suffrage: The Idaho Story”
WHEN: 7-8:30 Thursday, March 5.
WHERE: Haddock Performance Hall, Lionel Hampton School of Music, University of Idaho, 1012 S. Deakin St., Moscow.
OF NOTE: The event is organized by the Latah County Historical Society, Moscow League of Women’s Voters, and the University of Idaho with support from the Idaho Humanities Council.